It's hard to believe it was a year ago that my dance crew Freeplay and our friends at Prince on Point put on the dance show"Re/Genesis." What a crazy, thrilling ride that was, and the high point of my time with Freeplay.
If anything, "Re/Genesis" was worth it for all of the dope pictures that came out of it!
This weekend I went to House Dance Conference Bay Area, a three day celebration of the art of house dancing. Sponsored by MVMT Dance Studio in Berkeley, the event featured competitions, dance parties and dance classes. Best of all, it was completely free!
I've been to a number of different kinds of dance weekends, from swing to hip-hop to folk dancing. The House Dance Conference really brought home to me the values of community, sharing and joyful expression that the house dance movement is known for. Everyone from toddlers to grey-haired dancers shared the same space. And the gender balance, while male-dominated, featured lots of powerful female dancers in the mix all weekend.
Here's some of what I learned at the House Dance Conference:
1. A Round of Competition Can Last for an Hour (or Longer)
One highlight of the weekend for me was the "Abyss" house dance competition that took place most of Saturday day and evening. Thirty-some dancers entered the contest, with a series of 1-on-1 battles for the preliminary rounds. From that pool, 18 were selected for a final, epic, one hour continuous cypher / dance circle.
On Thursday, the California Academy of Sciences hosted a fun coding workshop for middle schoolers that I helped facilitate. The occasion was the visit of five young programmers from Cork, Ireland to the Bay Area, along with the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, and various other dignitaries from Ireland. The sponsoring organization was called CoderDojo, which is a movement of young programmer clubs that is sweeping the world.
It was a blast bringing together our local youth with these visiting kids, who all had a great time despite all of the paparazzi and non-youth-friendly speeches afterwards. I loved seeing kids eyes light up using free tools like Gimp and Scratch to manipulate images, create simple games, and tell stories.
As a youth facilitator, it was also great for me to see how a workshop could be done that was largely youth-led, with only light support by the adult facilitators. Adrian from CoderDojo jumped around and trouble-shooted when kids got really stuck on a problem, but otherwise it was the five Cork youth who were running the show for their peers. And each kid got to tackle the challenges on their own, in their own way.
We talk alot about peer-to-peer learning in my field. Seeing an entire global movement of clubs run on those principles was powerful to see in action. I'd love to explore more ways to build those kinds of practices and norms into my own youth programs that I design and lead.
Check out this video of the day produced by ABC7. Hey, I recognize that guy in the suspenders in the back!
"Another innovator is the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. In January it began offering an online biodiversity course, devised for teachers and high school students, and for parents to teach their children, with Khan Academy, a free online schoolhouse that has over 10 million users worldwide each month.
"Since 2010, the California Academy of Sciences has posted on iTunes U free lectures on ecology, sustainability, natural history, biodiversity, astronomy and space science; it also offers courses there, for middle- and high-school science educators, on earthquakes and how science works."
I've been remiss in keeping up with our awesome Khan Academy course and our other online educational resources we produce. Nice to see them getting wider attention though.
I had the pleasure of working at Global Kids in NYC for a couple of years, as part of their Online Leadership Program, where I learned so much about youth development, digital learning, and teen leadership. I definitely would not be where I am today without the experiences and connections I made at Global Kids.
That story is magnified a thousand fold by all the of teens who have come through Global Kids' doors for the past 25 years. What started as a dream by local educator Carole Artigiani in 1989 has blossomed into a powerful organization transforming at-risk teens in NYC, DC and beyond into global leaders.
Check out this awesome video that describes the tremendous impact this group has made in the lives of urban teens throughout the years. I'm honored to lend my financial support to this organization, and I encourage you to contribute too.
This past weekend, I had the honor of MCing a fun panel discussion among educators in three locales in the US on the topic of fostering youth voice in local learning networks. If you are a local educator and looking for ways to better serve your youth community, I recommend that you check out the video of this session.
When we were planning this session, we were trying to find a way to break out of the typical panel discussion format. Our idea was to present it like a radio program, specifically "This American Life," as a means of telling a story in "three acts." And of course, as the only male in the planning group, I was tasked with playing the Ira Glass character. Ira is one of my idols, so it was awesome getting to play him in front of a live audience. I think I did a reasonably passable impression, although nowhere near as awesome as Fred Armisen.
You can watch the results in the YouTube archive below. (Unfortunately, there was an audio glitch in the opening that doesn't get fixed until around the 8 minute mark.)